In February 1975, I was relieved rather than disappointed to not get an invite to my cousin Charlene’s nuptials in Dipton. Unfortunately, my frail Nan took a fall thye day before the wedding. Mum begged my fiancée and me to attend the wedding on her and Dad’s behalf.
‘Please, Lucy. If nobody from our lot came, your Aunty Pauline would never speak to me again.’
‘Perfect. You’re always saying that if you never hear from that woman again …’ Dad gave me one of his mischievous winks from behind mum’s back.
‘She’s still my sister. And you can borrow our car since yours is unreliable.’ Dad, unseen by Mum, shook his head vigorously.
‘Oh, no need. Jake’s fixed The Tank,’ I said, my fingers crossed behind my back. Our 1954 Hilman was as solid and as slow as a World War Two Tank. Dunedin to Dipton would be a slow trip.
‘Good, that’s settled. The present and the card.’ Mum handed me a box wrapped in brown paper. ‘Do you have some fancy paper?’
‘Sure,’ I shook the box. ‘A kitchen whiz?’ Mum nodded.
At home, I dumped the box on the hall table next to the recently arrived worm farm kit. I’d been planning to set up the equipment over the weekend, a more enthralling activity than attending Charlene’s wedding.
As Jake caressed the Tanks engine into action the following morning, I remembered the unwrapped present. I rushed back inside, nearly toppling on my thin stilettos. As we drove out of the city, I roughly wrapped the box in fancy paper, attaching the card.
The day was hot, the journey long, but the Tank did not falter. I chastised myself for doubting Jakes mechanical skills.
Driving through Mandeville, the noises began. Tapping, clunking, grinding, louder and louder. I shot Jake a baleful look.
‘Easy fix.’ Jake turned the radio knob to full volume. ‘Hear it now?’
The Tank spluttered to a stop outside of Balfour. We stood at the side of the road, thumbs extended for the non-existing passing traffic in the glare of the mid-day sun. The minutes passed slowly. A distant sound, a puff of dust in the still air. An old David Brown tractor with a back-tray came into sight and stopped.
The farmer looked us up and down. ‘The wedding?’ We nodded. ‘Climb aboard.’
As the tractor pulled alongside the curb, the wedding guests flowed from the church, led by my strident, Aunty Pauline. I attempted to discreetly alight from the back-tray. One of my heels wedged between the boards. Snap. I stumbled. Seeing the tractor, then seeing me, Aunty Pauline’s face paled. With her head tilted upwards, her arms flapping penguin style, she waddled to the nearby reception venue. The guests followed.
Jake handed the tatty-looking present to the awaiting bridesmaids. The girls unwrapped the gift then shrieked in unison.
‘A worm farm,’ said one, incredulously.
The other read the card. ‘You’re sure to create some tasty morsels with this useful kitchen appliance, Charlene.’